Saturday, November 20, 2010

Top Ten Favorite Characters, Number 2: Akio Furukawa

I think my first thoughts of meeting Akio were "Holy crap where did he come from??" This impression never entirely went away for me, because Akio will always surprise me in the same way that many of my incredibly stupid friends like to. They plan or say things that make me question my (not even necessarily their) sanity, and then do something that confirms what I'd thought: they're nuts. Akio is nuts. Akio is insane. Akio (like my dumb friends) is a deeply caring man, someone who always has been and always will be a model of fatherhood. 

Akio Furukawa: the family man character. Ah, Akio. My brain was broken this week every time I thought about what I wanted to write. I couldn’t think of anything really specific to say, but really this character is one of the best. I can picture any character, even Tomoya, being disliked by SOMEbody, but I can’t picture ANYbody disliking Akio. And if somehow those people do exist, then I’ve never heard of them before. In other words, Akio is an all-around loveable character.
I see him as the character that best represents Clannad’s major theme, family. He makes his place known in his family, and he protects his so-called “harem” with pride. He’s the man, and he’s not willing to give up his family easily, as we can see from the many baseball challenges he gives Tomoya when Tomoya wanted to ask for Nagisa to come live with him. His head-of-the-family pride is what keeps him on top of everything. Of course, if we go by Tomoyo’s definition, family isn’t just those you are related to by blood. It’s all of your friends and those you are close to who make up your family. We see Akio do anything he can for other people, who are usually friends of his daughter. His love for his daughter extends further, because Nagisa’s dream is Akio’s dreams, as he stated in Nagisa’s stage fright scene (which had to have been the greatest, most heart-warming speech in all of Clannad), so it’s not surprising that he is willing to reach out to those Nagisa is close to. Nagisa’s dream is Akio’s dream, so Nagisa’s friends are Akio’s friends, and since family consists of your friends also, Akio has a big family to keep watch over and support. He’s definitely up to it, though. He gives everybody what they need when they need it. He’ll be the funny one when things need to stay upbeat, he’ll be the honest one when things need to be said, and he’ll definitely be the encouraging one when inspiration is required. He represents all the aspects of what Clannad is.

There are certain characters in Clannad that refuse to be forgotten and refuse to be ignored.  They don't ask permission to stay in your memory, they simply do.  They're loud enough, assertive enough, strong enough, and different enough to just stick. For me, these delightful characters include Kyou, Sunohara, Fuko, and of course, Akio.  I will never forget meeting Akio.  I knew it was coming.  Everything was there, the buildup, Tomya's thought process, and the calm before the storm.  So I waited.  I was not disappointed.  Yes, a somewhat crazy-looking, dark and frightening man with a cigarette glowing like an evil eye out of legends just filled the screen.  My first thought was, they've gone overboard with this one -- overboard to the point of ridiculousness.  And at first, everything I saw confirmed my original opinion.  Akio was the stereotypical father who was loud, pushy, and a completely full of himself.  I raised my eyebrows and watched him go through his antics rather unimpressed.  Yet, (yes, there is that yet) yet, just as with so many other characters in Clannad, as the show went on, Akio became more.  I watched his character deepen. I will always remember the scene at the end of the first season of Clannad.  I'll always remembered Nagisa standing on a lightened stage with the auditorium is dark around her, standing still and frightened with tears running down her face.  I will always remember Akio shouting across that the rows upon rows of people, "Make you dreams come true Nagisa!"  I will always remember Akio as the father who did everything in power to be the best father it was possible for him to be.  He is not stereotypical.  He is a man who who loves, teaches, and protect those who are dear to him -- and at the same time is as uniquely himself as he can be.

You mean the clown with the baseball bat? I thought he was a weirdo the first time I saw him. I still think he's a weirdo. But it's an awesome kind of weirdo. Akio is quite the unusual character, and I can't imagine the crazy shenanigans that went on which led to him and Sanae getting married. They're a very odd couple, yet a couple which works incredibly well. Back to Akio, though, since this is kinda his post. He's crazy.

Yeah, he's like that.

Of course, like any character, there's a lot more to him than that. Akio has deep passions and cares, and gives them everything that he's got. Think back to his crazy devotion to drama (this "crazy" word...I think it's becoming a trend here), but at the same time his huge devotion to his wife. He'd do pretty much anything for her, or for anyone he loved, and that's something which rocks, epically.

This love comes out in far more delicate and refined ways, too. It's Akio who acts as a stable cornerstone for the entire Furukawa family, whether it be shielding Nagisa from emotional harm or being a place for his wife to rest and grieve after their daughter's death. He knows how to take life seriously, and I think that's the reason he can goof off so much. After all, it's the most serious things which make for the funniest things, and what's more serious than life?

So, now it’s time for my favorite character: Akio!

Ever since I saw the first episode, I’ve had a preference for Akio. Something about his over-the-top and illogical nature endeared him to me, and I’ve laughed at him since his first appearance amidst a field of flames. Throughout the series, he’s always been my favorite source of humor and comic relief. For some reason, his brand of humor just strikes me very effectively. But if he were just humorous, he wouldn’t be my favorite character. It’s because of his kind nature underneath it all that makes him amazing.

For the majority of the first season, he’s just a humorous guy. Really, he is. But in the last few episodes, we see a new side of his personality: he’s truly a father. He cares deeply for his daughter, and he lets it show, albeit in strange ways at times. He wants her to be happy, as happy as possible, and he does whatever he can to protect her so that she can be happy. That’s what he’s like in After Story as well, leading to the scenes of his baseball challenges to Tomoya. I feel those scenes portray his deeper side the most poignantly: he’s not going to let his daughter marry a terrible man. He’s going to test anyone she’s with, because he’s her father: he needs to decide if there really is a man worthy of marrying his only daughter. So he decides to use the best test he can think of: baseball.

Something about that idea just struck a chord with me. If I end up marrying, I hope my wife’s father would be like that. He doesn’t need to fit the other aspects of Akio: he doesn’t have to be a baker, he doesn’t have to be over-the-top, he doesn’t have to make somewhat sketchy comments and actions. What I want is for him to be protective of his daughter. I want to have to fight for her. I think it shows how much Tomoya loves Nagisa in that he perseveres: he keeps going out to swing that bat, even after he’s failed time and time again. He practices like a madman, and he goes out, even in the pouring rain, to try to win her hand. It’s part of what makes Tomoya’s character so great, and it’s enabled by Akio. Akio is the one who protects his daughter from harm to the best of his ability, and that includes protecting her from terrible men. I just hope my wife’s father is as caring and protective as that.

In the end, I also hope I can become a father like Akio. That doesn’t mean I want to be absolutely over-the-top, sneaking into my daughter’s work to take pictures of her in a waitress outfit. I don’t need that side of Akio. The side of Akio that I want to emulate is his truly caring, protecting, chivalrous side: I want to protect and care for my children like Akio protects and cares for Nagisa, and I want to protect and care for my grandchildren as Akio protects and cares for Ushio. I want to be there as a support for my wife, like Akio supports Sanae as she grieves over Nagisa’s death. I want to be the kind of amazing man and father that Akio can be in his best moments.

And that’s why Akio is my favorite character: in his best moments, he shows me a model of how to be a father, and I hope I can emulate that.

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